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Martin O'Neill: Republic can take the heat

By Daniel McDonnell

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill is confident that his team have the quality to get the win they need against Scotland if they can cope with the pressure to deliver.

The 63-year-old is content with the manner in which preparations for the game are progressing, with all his main players available - in contrast to last November's defeat in Glasgow.

O'Neill believes that overcoming the tension that was evident in the first half against Poland in March is the key to victory on Saturday.

"We have to play well under pressure, throw the shackles off and play as strong as we can - I think that if we do that, we'll win," declared O'Neill. "You have to accept the pressure."

Asked directly about what the shackles are, O'Neill elaborated. "Don't be tense. That's easier said than done," he replied.

"The same will apply for Scotland but I think it's the sort of game that any player would want to be starting."

James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, Marc Wilson, Wes Hoolahan and Shay Given were injured for the costly reverse at Celtic Park and their availability will strengthen O'Neill's hand.

"I'm pleased to have them around," he asserted.

"We feel we're a stronger squad because of it. They have great experience and that should be important in a game like this."

Robbie Keane was benched in Glasgow but has landed in Dublin after coming through a badly needed 90 minutes for LA Galaxy at the weekend following a lengthy injury absence that could complicate his chances of starting this vital Group D qualifier.

O'Neill and his coaching staff were back on the training ground yesterday morning just hours after being involved in a motorway shunt.

The former Northern Ireland skipper, assistant Roy Keane and coaches Steve Walford, Steve Guppy and Seamus McDonagh, were travelling in the same car on the M50 on Tuesday when they were hit from behind.

However, they suffered only minor injuries, which were treated by team doctor Alan Byrne, and all five were on the training pitch at Gannon Park in Malahide.

O'Neill added: "We're fine, we're fine, I'll survive anyway. We just got shunted from the back. I speak for myself, but I'm feeling not too bad."

Asked if the incident had been scary, O'Neill added after a pause: "Yeah, but listen, we're fine."

News of the collision sparked a flurry of activity on social media on Tuesday night, although it did not appear to cause too much of a ripple at the team hotel in Portmarnock.

Asked if any of the players had commented on it, O'Neill said with a smile: "They may have slagged some of the other staff, but they certainly didn't slag me." Asked how record scorer Keane looked, O'Neill said: "Not too bad. He had a long flight, got in - and I think he played the full game (at the weekend). I don't think he was expecting to play the full game, but he stayed on the field as they were losing.

"But he's feeling not so bad now. It might take him a day to get sorted out, but not too bad."

However, there was less encouraging news for midfielder Harry Arter, who is a doubt for the weekend as he nurses hip and groin injuries picked up during his debut as a substitute in the 0-0 friendly draw against England on Sunday. O'Neill said: "Harry Arter didn't train today. He has a hip problem and a groin issue and is away to be assessed. It's a shame because when he came on, I thought he had done very well indeed, and he is starting to grow into this.

"Naturally in the course of the next few months, his time with Bournemouth in the Premier League will stand him in good stead. He made a very decent impression when he came on, so I'm a wee bit disappointed that he's picked up this injury."

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